Main fields of research
Global child health, infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance
Global child health has improved significantly over the past decades. However, major obstacles remain to ensure equitable chances for all children of the world to survive and thrive to their full potential. Importantly, the burden of global child morbidity and mortality remain unevenly distributed across the world, and to a large extent carried by children residing in low- and middle income countries.
Over the past 5 years we have developed a specific interest in pediatric infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance. Together with partners in East Africa we have implemented research activities to provide evidence for improved childhood fever case management, mapping of trends and user characteristics of antibiotics in low- middle income countries, and evaluated malaria control interventions in high malaria transmission setting of Tanzania, as well as for malaria elimination efforts in the low malaria transmission setting of Zanzibar.
In addition, we have a growing collaboration with the Department of Paediatrics & Child Health at the Aga Khan University (AKU), Karachi, Pakistan, on various aspects of child health.
Nutrition in early life has both short- and long-term health consequences affecting an individuals’ ability to participate in and contribute to the society she is a member of emphasizing the central role of nutrition for sustainable health and development.
Our research evolves around the mother and infant dyad in disadvantaged settings. By increasing the understanding of environmental, economic, and social determinants for their food and nutrition security our aim is to identify factors of importance for developing policy and effective community-based interventions to improve the situation. Women play a mediating role between the determinants for family food and nutrition security but women’s ability to provide care may often be restricted due to low status and limitations in access to resources.
Our research projects in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Nicaragua have in common a focus on food and nutrition security in early life and the role of women’s empowerment.
Global Environmental Health
Environmental health deals with assessment and control of physical, chemical, biological, social, and psychological factors external to a person that have the potential to impact human health. Globally, millions of death and lost disability-adjusted life-years are attributable to environmental exposures and related illnesses. Most of the environmental exposures stem from unsafe water and sanitation, air pollution, indoor smoke from solid fuels, toxic hazards, vector-borne diseases, and global climate change. Environment-related diseases represent an enormous global health concern, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. It is especially an issue in impoverished communities, where there is often a lack of awareness and knowledge about the effects of toxic metals and other environmental hazards on women’s and children’s health. The developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) hypothesis and emerging evidence indicate that early-life exposure to environmental toxicants and pollutants via air, water, and food impart long-term effects on physical and mental health as well as on cognitive development and social behavior and result in the development of metabolic syndromes later in life.
The primary objective of the scientific program is to understand the role of environment as a determinant of health. The aim is also to study the effect of many different essential and toxic elements on child and adolescent’s growth and development, and specifically about how this research can be used to implement community-based approaches to improving maternal, child, and adolescent’s health and also to educate advanced-level students about the environmental determinants of health and climate change with a global health perspective.
Global Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention
This sub-group primarily works with intervention and implementation research for the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCD) in different countries and settings, both urban and rural. Moreover, we have an equity focus and work mainly with disadvantaged or under-resourced populations and settings in low-, middle- and high-income countries. The sub-group has an overall focus on the primary and secondary prevention of NCDs, mainly diabetes and other cardio-metabolic conditions. This includes development and implementation of self-management support interventions, screening for high-risk among hard-to-reach populations, and community mobilization, engagement, and outreach for disease prevention activities. Additionally, we also work with understanding food and physical activity environments and behaviours and the interaction between the two, also from an NCD perspective.
DIGITAL DIAGNOSTICS AT THE POINT-OF-CARE
Medical diagnostics is undergoing a transition where an increasing number of processes can be supported by digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI) at the point-of-care (POC). Our research group has developed a diagnostic system which includes obtaining a sample, digitizing the sample at the POC with a mobile microscope scanner, image transfer over mobile networks, AI-analysis, and verification by a remote expert and feed-back of the results back to the POC for decision support. We have conducted proof-of-concept studies regarding the novel method that combines AI and mobile digital microscopy for cell-based cervical cancer screening in resource-limited settings in East Africa. Next, we will assess the usefulness of the diagnostic method in the form of three validation studies in Tanzania and Kenya: A) for screening of gynecological cell samples with the aim of detecting precancers for the prevention of cervical cancer, B) as a monitoring method for drug efficacy within control programs for soil-transmitted helminth infections in school children, and C) for malaria diagnostics.